WHAT'S FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER?

Between American traditions and Lithuanian heritage

For some local advice, we invited Lindrė to join us – she was born and raised in Texas, Austin, in a second-generation immigrant family with strong Lithuanian traditions. Her grandparents ran away to the US because of the war and, even though they never returned to Lithuania, they have always cherished the traditions of their homeland.

Lindrė herself has first came to Lithuania for an exchange semester, and instantly felt like she belonged here, even though, as she jokes, it was shocking to see ketchup being put on every meal. Jokes aside, though, Lindrė loved the realness and honesty of Lithuanian people, so she decided to invite her friends for a Thanksgiving dinner the first year she arrived. By now, it has evolved into an annual tradition of eleven years and counting, a loving husband, and a successful Mexican restaurant in Vilnius.

In photo: Natural Luxury Apron and Thin Black Stripes Kitchen Towel

– Lindrė, what were your first impressions once you came to Lithuania?

– I instantly felt that I was in the right place, like I belonged here. I loved Lithuanian traditions and people, yet not everything has been easy. Lithuanians are very open and say everything that’s on their mind, which I appreciate a lot, but it took me some time to get used to. I remember receiving a negative comment from a stranger grandma on the street and felt like crying afterwards – she didn’t know me, so I couldn’t understand why did she feel entitled to criticize me? I’ve got accustomed to this now and it doesn’t bother me any more.

– Tell us more about your Thanksgiving traditions. Would you celebrate it with your family?

– Yes, we used to. My favorite task was tearing the bread for the stuffing. One year, my grandma figured she would help me and cut the bread into pieces the night before. So, I woke up the next morning, only to find out the bread has been cut, instead of torn, and my favorite task has been taken away from me. I got so upset and angry! (laugs) It’s worth mentioning that stuffing is not exactly being stuffed any more. It used to go inside the turkey, but in that case it takes hours for everything to cook through, the meat on the outside ends up dry, and all the nutrients disappear. So, now we cook the turkey and the stuffing separately. In addition, we always have cranberry sauce and gravy to go with the meat, as well as potatoes and a couple of pies – all together the dish count can go up as high as 12! That’s why I don’t like to use too many seasonings in them – when there’s so much of everything, I believe it’s best to keep other flavors pure and wholesome to avoid too many overwhelming tastes.

– Do you still celebrate Thanksgiving now that you live in Lithuania?

– Oh yes I do! My husband and I invite our friends over for Thanksgiving dinner, which I make the way I learnt during my childhood. Most of the friends have been a part of this tradition since my first year in Lithuania, by now they have learnt most of the recipes, so usually everyone picks a dish they’re making and we bring it all together on Thanksgiving, making it much easier to host.

Thanksgiving stuffing

What we’ll need:

      • - 500 gr bread, for toasting
      • - 100 gr chestnuts, boiled and peeled (can be replaced with walnuts)
      • - Celery stalks, one bunch with leaves, sliced &nbsp
      • - 4-6 twigs of thyme, rosemary, sage, lightly chopped
      • - 1 onion, finely diced
      • - 2 handfuls of fresh cranberries

Let’s get going:

        1. 1. Pan-fry onions in olive oil for a few minutes, until golden.
        2. 2. Add chopped celery and continue frying for a couple more minutes.
        3. 3. Add the herbs, pour over 100-150 ml water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Take the herbs out of the pan.
        4. 4. Season with salt, add the butter, and stir well.
        5. 5. While the stuffing is cooling, lightly toast the bread in an oven for a couple of minutes. Take it out of the oven and tear into bite-size pieces. Pour the mixture from the pan over the bread and stir well. Add the cranberries, stir once again, and you’re done!

Mashed potatoes

What we’ll need:

            • - 2 kg potatoes, washed but not peeled
            • - 4 teaspoons salt
            • - 350 ml milk
            • - 100 ml double cream
            • - 1 head of garlic, cut in half
            • - 3 twigs of fresh rosemary
            • - 225 gr butter

Let’s get going:

              1. 1. Add the potatoes into a pot and cover with water. Add a small handful of salt. Boil for 25-35 minutes.
              2. 2. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and rinse with cold water to cool slightly. Peel the potatoes.
              3. 3. Heat the milk, double cream, garlic and rosemary in a saucepan. Allow about 5 minutes so that dairy gets infused with the flavors.
              4. 4. Mash the potatoes, adding milk and butter, until everything is smooth. Season with salt.

Sweet potatoes

What we’ll need:

                  • - Sweet potatoes, as many as you like
                  • - Salt, olive oil

Let’s get going:

                    1. 1. Cut sweet potatoes into long slices.
                    2. 2. Add them to a bowl, season with salt, and drizzle with olive oil. Mix well.
                    3. 3. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet, and bake for 20-30 minutes in an oven heated to 200oC, until cooked.

Photos by Lina Juškė

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